Athlete of the Week: Lone senior Whitmore leading way for young Hawks
FRONT ROYAL — Nikea Whitmore finds herself in unfamiliar territory this season.
The Skyline girls basketball player is the only senior on this year’s squad, which puts a lot on her shoulders.
“For her its kind of tough, because it’s just her. She is that senior leader and the only one,” Skyline girls basketball coach Jim Kenney said. “So she has a lot of responsibility. She accepts it, she takes it, and she’s basically our coach out on the floor. Sometimes she’s not as vocal, but she’s a very good leader as far as her actions. I’m very impressed with her, what she’s done this year. We’ll miss her a lot.”
Skyline has three juniors, seven sophomores and two freshman on the varsity squad.
Whitmore, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for the week of Jan. 2-8, said it feels a little strange being the only senior but she’s trying to do a good job leading the younger players and helping them out.
“Being the only senior I feel like I have a lot more pressure on myself, but I also like that,” Whitmore said. “These younger girls on varsity are just now starting their career on varsity, and I’ve been through it for four years. I can actually help them in different situations, because most of the situations they’ve been in, I’ve been in myself.”
Whitmore scored 15 points and had five rebounds in Skyline’s 44-19 win over Manassas Park last week. Kenney said she was dominant even though she didn’t play for more than a quarter of the game.
One of the problems teams have when facing the 5-foot-11 Whitmore is that she can play inside or outside.
Kenney said that her outside shot has really improved over the last few years.
“Her first couple years she wasn’t a big 3-point shooter, but last year she really stepped into that — this year same thing,” Kenney said. “Traditionally you would think she’s a post player, but her most comfortable spot is elbow-to-elbow and outside — that’s her comfort zone. She’s a good post player too, but her jump shooting ability has gotten better.”
Whitmore, who also plays volleyball and is on the track and field team, said she worked hard over the summer on her conditioning and feels like it’s paid off this season.
Kenney said she’s scored in double figures every game this season, except for one. He said her consistency is one of her biggest strengths.
Whitmore said that she loves basketball the most among the sports that she plays, and she loves playing with her teammates.
“My favorite part is working with the team,” Whitmore said. “You got a family out there with them. You have team chemistry with them. You can always rely on them if you need to.”
Sports have always been big in the Whitmore family. Two of her uncles, George and Darrell, were standout players at Warren County in multiple sports. Darrell Whitmore played football and baseball at West Virginia University and later played in the major leagues for the Florida Marlins from 1993-95.
“It’s actually a big thing in my family when they come to my games,” Nikea Whitmore said. “They’re like ‘oh, you got to do this. I used to be the rebounding machine.’ It’s just like more competition with my family, like ‘I got this one time, you can’t do this.’ It’s just a big ‘ole competition. It’s a lot of fun.”
This season Nikea Whitmore has helped lead the Hawks to an impressive 7-4 start. Even though the team is young, they have won some close games and have done well in Conference 28 contests.
The Hawks have struggled the last few years picking up wins, and Nikea Whitmore said that it’s been a good feeling seeing the team win in her senior season.
“It’s like a building step, because my previous years I’ve been on varsity we didn’t have the outcome that we wanted,” Nikea Whitmore said. “But this year we have awesome team chemistry. We interact well. We can always talk to each other. We practice hard, our practices are amazing. We push each other. They’re just fun.”
Nikea Whitmore said that her goal for the team is to make the Conference 28 championship game and qualify for the regional tournament.
“We have a hard schedule coming up now with the Winchester teams, but in our conference I think we’re a strong team,” she said.
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org